Another way: lessons in generosity
Will you be devoting much of your free time to helping a woman who can no longer do groceries like groceries and other groceries, or take care of things in her own home due to complications from dialysis? Lucinda is a writer friend who did just that for about two years. She was single at the time and I guess she was almost twenty – a time when a lot of us wouldn’t get involved as much.
Lucinda is a conservative Mennonite and an extraordinary writer. I have to say this because she has diligently studied creative writing and practiced various forms of descriptive writing for years. Recently, she studied for a year at Sattler College in Boston, Massachusetts. Sattler is a Christian college that opened in 2018 with approximately 75 students.
Picture this: a young woman walking the streets of Boston wearing a long, plain dress with a cape (additional material sewn onto the bodice of a dress for modesty) and headwear. This style of dress is not widely used in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
I had the privilege of writing a letter of recommendation for Lucinda to join Sattler because at that time I had recently been editor-in-chief of her first book, Anything but Simple: My Life as a Mennonite (Herald Press, 2017 ). This book was a pleasure to read as an editor. We also spent a morning together when she visited our Presbyterian church and had lunch. She had a book signing this weekend. A reviewer of this book says, “This woman was born to write. Sometimes it’s great to use a certain word in the right place.
In a new book, Turtle Heart: Implyly Friends with a Life-Changing Bond, I enjoyed her hundreds of finely tuned descriptions of facial expressions, smiles, and cold, harsh looks: “She studies me with a tilt. the head. She looks skeptical. “I saw his face – impassive behind his little rimless glasses, sparkle without warning in joy, wickedness, sorrow.” “His eyes became attentive and his eyebrows angry.”
What she discusses in this book, covering approximately two years of a deep friendship with a woman much older and very different from her, is remarkable and a lesson in generosity. The main character besides Lucinda is Charlene, a half-Ojibwe (American descent) who grew up in a family of 14 children. The book is based on a diary Lucinda kept for a few years as Charlene approached 70. Luci had also recorded interviews with Charlene when they both lived in Rusk County, Wisconsin.
Charlene grew up doing a difficult and tedious “man’s” job with her brothers on the farm. But one brother in particular was obnoxious and difficult to live with. Luci got to know Charlene when she worked as a nursing aide at a nursing home and Charlene lived independently but depended on others to drive her to dialysis appointments an hour away. Luci became one of the drivers and as their friendship blossomed she began to spend many hours a day and a week outside of her work time helping Charlene around her house. In the book, Luci confesses that she began to covet time for herself and for other interests.
Charlene was an addicted smoker, and although Lucinda hated smoking, she tolerated being surrounded by pollution because she was starting to love Charlene as a sister and a believer. Charlene’s faith was based on Indigenous traditions honoring the Creator, but over time she read the New Testament through and through large parts of the Old, while studying the Bible with the father (a pastor) and the mother of Luci. The refreshing thing about Luci’s father was that he was honest in answering some questions about faith with “I don’t know”.
The book is worth reading if you like well-written memoirs, biographies, or even popular Amish romance novels. Lucinda’s way of words and suspense is anything but simple – she’ll make you look at your own relationships and why people have difficult personalities sometimes. Put it on your Christmas list! And I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling you what a turtle heart does that is unusual.
Find Charlene’s book on Amazon or her website, www.lucindajkinsinger.com.
Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or Another Way Media, PO Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are published on FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after publication in the newspaper.
This article originally appeared in The Daily American: Melody Davis column on generosity